Nerd Nite SF #88: Shark Die-Offs, Clever Animal Adaptations, and Bots!

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Rickshaw Stop...Wednesday, 9/20/2017
Doors at 7 pm, show at 8
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street @Van Ness
$8, all ages

We’re late, but we’re great…white sharks, that is! Plus, lots and lots of weird animals and bots. Sean Van Sommeran of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation will  talk about mass die-offs of sharks (and other creatures) in the Bay. Wired magazine science writer Matt Simon will guide us through the many clever animal adaptations that evolution has produced over the millennia, from the horrifying to the downright hilarious: think flatworms fencing with their penises, ants being mind-controlled by a fungus, pearlfish swimming up sea cucumber butts, and axolotls mating! And Mark Stephen Meadows will chat you up about bots and avatars. Add stiff drinks, themed tunes, and you. Voilà, a nerd cocktail! Be there and be square!


“Bad Bot. Good Bot.” by Mark Stephen Meadows

You’re authenticated on Facebook but chatbots aren’t. Bots can spam, scam, phish, spoof, and abuse more effectively than people. What we need are license plates for these things. If we bolt a voice onto a bot we make an assistant, so let’s look at what assistants (Siri, Alexa, Cortana) collect, what’s done with that data, and how they can share it in ML dialogue markets. Then let’s bolt a face onto the assistant and look at the future of multi-modal avatars for video chat, VR, and AR. Oh, and ethics.

Mark Stephen Meadows is an author, inventor, artist, and CEO of Botanic Technologies. With 20 years experience in real-time 3D (VR/AR/etc), 15 years experience in NLP/AI, and 5 in robotics he’s designed and developed artificial intelligence applications with companies as diverse as Microsoft, Sony, Xerox-PARC, Stanford Research Institute, LucasArts, Oracle, and others. He leads the vision of Botanic by inventing new methods of computer-human interaction, developing the hearts and minds of highly social avatars and graphical bots.

“Zombie Ants, Penis Fencing, and Fish That Swim Up Sea Cucumber Butts: The Animal Kingdom Is Legit” by Matt Simon

At this very moment, two flatworms in the sea have extended their needle-like penises and started fencing with them, each worm trying to stab the other and inject sperm through the skin. Meanwhile, in South America, a fungus has invaded an ant’s mind and driven it out of the colony to a precise spot in the rainforest. Oh, and the eel-like pearlfish has swum up a sea cucumber’s butt and eaten its internal organs, including the gonads.

Believe it or not, these are all clever adaptations to the everyday problems of life. Join Wired magazine science writer Matt Simon as he guides you through the many solutions that evolution has produced over the millennia, from the horrifying to the downright hilarious, and sometimes both at the same time.

Matt Simon is a science writer at Wired magazine, where he focuses on robotics and biology. He’s the author of The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar (Penguin, 2016) and of a forthcoming book about parasites that mind-control their hosts, out next fall. He’s one of the few people on the planet to witness the fabled mating ritual of the axolotl salamander, a tale he’ll tell at Nerd Nite SF.

“Sharks & Epizootic Mass Die-Off Update” by Sean Van Sommeran

Sean Van Sommeran established the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation in 1990 to kick off the ‘shark conservation, education and research’ movement.

Based in Monterey Bay, the PSRF has a stranding rescue and collecting unit that coordinates response to toxic spills, injured and trapped sharks and rays and mass stranding events and epizootic die offs and combating poachers throughout the state of California and Bay Areas.

Currently focused on white shark, basking shark and mass stranding response projects, there is much to tell and talk about and question and answer discussions are always informative and from primary sources and well documented.


With: Alpha Bravo, who’ll be spinning tunes specially selected to match the presenters’ themes. Follow the setlist on Twitter @djalphabravo.